Blue Öyster Cult

Tales of the Psychic War, Vols. 1-2

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What to say? These two volumes of archival live material -- originally recorded for radio broadcast (and edited that way) reveal Blue Öyster Cult as a major concert draw. Tales of the Psychic Wars, Volumes One And Two contains two concerts: the first recorded in New York City in 1981 with the original lineup and featuring Albert Bouchard on drums and one of his last gigs. The liner notes claim Bouchard was dismissed after showing up for two European gigs later in the year. Bouchard may beg to differ with this assessment. Oh well. The second concert was recorded in 1983 in Pasadena. Musically, the 1981 show (part of the Fire of Unknown Origin tour) has its moments -- "Burnin' for You," remains soulful and has great guitar work by Buck Dharma Roeser, and a fine vocal by Eric Bloom. The title track from Fire is simply bad, and Bloom blows the vocal big time. "Joan Crawford" is at its theatrical and campy best on both discs. The older material, "Hot Rails to Hell," from Tyranny and Mutation, is raucous and wooly on both shows, and "Me 262" from Secret Treaties taken from the 1981 gig is dynamite. The versions of "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," are fine emotional reads with great vocals and guitar work, and Allen Lanier's keyboards don't overwhelm. And for a song that has been played so much, it still has plenty of fire in it. Not so for "Godzilla," which was tossed off on the NYC show and was (thankfully) not on the set in Pasadena. Both shows feature two covers that became BÖC staples: Steppenwolf's "Born to Be Wild" and the Doors' "Roadhouse Blues." They have a crackling energy and spark across the board, and there is an argument that BÖC made these tunes their own, as evidenced by the performances of them here. The '83 Pasadena gig (allegedly supporting the Revolution by Night album, though none of that material is here) is a more energetic set though it lacks in the drum department. Again, the older stuff -- "Harvester of Eyes," "Workshop of the Telescopes," "Seven Screaming Diz Busters," "Cities on Flame with Rock and Roll," and "Before the Kiss" -- simply smokes. It's inspired, dark, theatrical, and crazy. "Born to Rock," from Buck Dharma's solo album, is a throwaway -- like that album itself. "Joan Crawford" also appears near the end of the set, and the two covers are split by a soulful, loose and edgy "(Don't Fear) The Reaper," with layers of keyboards. Strictly speaking, these two volumes are for BÖC fanatics only. They have seen and heard the magic -- and there is some on these discs -- and can tolerate the excessive and insincere moments.

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